18/04/2013 – No Gi (Turtle Escapes)

Class #499
Gracie Barra Bristol, (No-Gi), Miles Pearson, Bristol, UK – 18/04/2013

I’ve mentioned numerous times in the past that I’m not a big fan of nogi. Out of the 500 lessons of BJJ I’ve taken over the years, a mere 30 of them have been nogi. When I’ve gone to nogi, it has normally been because I had no choice as I couldn’t make any other class in the schedule. That’s exactly why I find myself in the GB Bristol nogi class: Thursdays and Tuesdays are still by far the best days for me to train, so as I now teach on Tuesdays, it looks like I’ll be taking off the gi on Thursdays.

This time, I do at least have a new element to make it interesting: Leverage Submission Grappling. I’ve been to two of Nathan ‘Levo’ Leverton’s seminars so far, which I will be using as a nogi syllabus to work through. Every time I train nogi, my main focus will be LSG techniques. Fortunately for me, tonight was straight out of the LSG playbook, with several techniques Levo taught back at the Leverage Grappling Seminar #03. Miles kicked off with the wrestler’s sit-out (which Levo calls the ‘peek out’). They are in front of you, with their arms past your armpits but not locked. Base on an elbow and the opposite foot, then knock back their same side arm with your non-basing elbow.

Bring your non-basing foot through right across to the opposite corner, getting your head up, then spin behind them. Your inside hand stays by the leg in case they try to run behind. Also make sure you are putting your weight onto them when you bring your head through. If your weight is sat on the floor, the person on top can simply put their head on the floor, bring their leg over and mount.

Miles combined this with the arm roll, which applies when they lock their arms around you. Of course, a good grappler isn’t going to give you their arm like that when you’re in turtle, but it is still worth knowing. Same position, but this time you reach back and lock their arm. Look in the direction of the wrapped arm, then drop your same side shoulder to the mat and roll them onto their back. Turn towards their legs to come on top (if you turn towards their head, they can take your back).

Miles finished off with defending the over-under. This is when you have a more knowledgeable opponent, who reaches under your neck with one arm and your armpit with the other. From there, they can move into chokes, so you don’t want to hang around. Miles said that some people advocate the usual sit-out, but that he finds it doesn’t work well for him. His preference is to drop to the mat, firmly gripping their arm, one leg back and the other curled up high.

That should mean you are now heavy because your centre of gravity is low, hopefully giving you time to work free of their grip. When drilling, Liam tested out some variations on the Peruvian neck tie (although I’ve heard of it, that was the first time I’d seen it in the flesh), which he thought might make that defence problematic, although trouble-shooting with Miles, the defence seemed sound.

I was nervous about sparring, as my groin injury decided to flare up again due to Tuesday (I didn’t restrict myself as much, which was a mistake), but it turned out ok. Specific sparring from turtle gave me the chance to try and shift into Levo’s front headlock position, but I was having trouble because we all had to start with that arm-wrapping grip. Although even if we hadn’t started there, I would still have run into difficulty: I’m not settling my shoulder into their upper back properly, meaning they can still move forward and take out my legs.

Underneath I also had problems, again partially due to the grip. Normally if I’m in turtle I would be trying very hard to prevent them getting any kind of grip, with my elbows in tight. What I should have done was practice the escapes we’d learned, but I got overly fixated in attempting some tips from LSG #03, particularly the point on always shifting backwards to make them follow you then go for a leg.

Moving into free sparring, I was reminded yet again just how little I know about nogi. I really struggle to get any sort of grip in guard: not having lots of gi to grab makes a massive difference. That meant that instead, I was grabbing the head and failing to get over and underhooks. Keeping them tight is another high priority, which I need to work on. I have been to Levo’s closed guard seminar, but would benefit from going again, along with his session on open guard.


I vaguely looked for deep half at one point, but as I don’t use that in gi either, I just ended up curled close to their legs. That curled up position featured heavily when I sparred Luke too, this time facing the other way, in the running escape survival posture. I could defend from there, but because I was squashed on the mat, I couldn’t do much else except work to block arms digging in. I was impressed by Luke’s control, as despite being a huge guy, he took it nice and easy, staying technical even though I’m sure he could have just picked me up and thrown me across the room. 😉

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24/03/2013 – Leverage Submission Grappling Fundamentals 03 (Turtle & Back Mount)

Seminar #012
Leicester Shootfighters, (Submission Grappling), Nathan ‘Levo’ Leverton, Leicester, UK – 24/03/2013

My initial entry into Leverage Submission Grappling, a nogi system being codified by veteran UK instructor Nathan Leverton, was last year, with my team mate Steve from Gracie Barra Bristol. Steve kindly gave me a lift in 2012, but this time he wasn’t able to go. I decided to take the opportunity to do some more CouchSurfing by coming up on the train the day before, as I had such a good experience in Dallas.

[I’m going to ramble a bit about CouchSurfing now, so if you don’t care, scroll past the next three paragraphs ;D]

If you’re not familiar with CouchSurfing, it is a social media website which people use to meet up and stay with each other. While that sounds rather bizarre to a lot of people, particularly those who do not spend much time on the internet, it’s a process that works very well in practice. There are checks in place, such as a system of references and vouching to warn others if anybody turns out to be dodgy. Leicester was my second time staying with somebody, which I’m also hoping to do when I head over to the US later in the year.

My host this time was Dani, who very handily is only about a mile away from Leicester Shootfighters. After cycling over (the Google Navigation thing on my phone is fortunately quite thorough, so my total lack of a sense of direction didn’t matter), it didn’t take me long to work out the right house: flags from around the world were peeping out from behind the window. Dani has travelled to a LOT of countries! 😉 She and her housemate Justyna greeted me with a big bottle of Becks and a tasty spaghetti meal.

Another CouchSurfer, Sara, was also there: just like in Dallas, there is a vibrant CouchSurfing community in Leicester. We headed out to a local shisha bar, followed by some excellent cheesy music at Hakamou (it was a bit full for dancing, unfortunately, though I could still have a good wiggle). While there we met two cool Canadian students (randomly, it turns out that Pete was well aware of BJJ, as he did some MMA and JKD back in Alberta), who Sara invited back to her flat where we all had a good chat until 4am. Slightly later than I was intending to get to bed, but Dani and Justyna are so hilariously entertaining that I was laughing too much to care. It’s impossible to not have a good time with those two, so I’m looking forward to seeing them again before the next LSG seminar. Thanks for the great night out, CouchSurfers of Leicester! ;D
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There has been heavy snow this weekend, which prevented a few attendees from coming along to the seminar. Then again, that does have the positive outcome of more personal attention from Leverton, which is a good thing from a student perspective. As with LSG 04, LSG 03 kicked off with an introduction. Leverton handed out a sheet detailing the techniques to be taught today, again aiming to cover it all off within five hours.

The seminar proper began with around two hours on turtle top position. I rarely go anywhere near turtle, so although many of the techniques looked familiar, I can’t think of the last time I used any of them in sparring. My main interest for this seminar was the back mount portion, but I knew that some focus on the turtle would be good for me, given I don’t seem to use it much these days. Particularly in regards to turtle, there was a key difference between LSG 03 and LSG 04: wrestling. As LSG 04 was on the guard, the predominant influence was jiu jitsu, but for the turtle, wrestling provides an excellent base.

Leverton’s first technique was defending against the person in turtle trying to grab your legs, as they will often be looking for a takedown. The simplest method of blocking that attack is to sprawl. Whether they have grabbed one or both of your legs, start by grabbing behind their armpit, the other hand going on their head (not their neck: aim for the end of the lever where they’re weaker). Push their head towards the mat and then sprawl back. It’s important you then square up.

When sprawling, you want to make sure you aren’t jumping backwards, as that gives them the opportunity to complete their takedown. Instead, thrust your hips into them then slide down. The aim is to create a wedge with your body that means their forward momentum is dissipated. You can then establish a front headlock, shifting your head-hand to wrap around and grip their chin. Drive the point of your same side shoulder into the base of their neck, right where it meets their back. Similarly to the sprawl, this blocks them moving forwards.

Your other hand clamps onto their triceps, then slides down towards their elbow. Come up on your toes, getting your ear into their armpit on the triceps-gripping side. Lower your chin-grip side knee slightly, then pull back on their arm. From there you can go behind, with two main options. The meaner version seemed to be ‘snapping’ them (a term I’ve heard in regards to takedowns, but don’t really understand in technical detail because I never work takedowns. Ever), driving with your shoulder first then dragging their arm back. The goal is to get them extended, so that it is difficult for them to react as you move around behind.

The nicer option is moving the arm on their chin to the other side of their head. The back of your hand is on their shoulder, while your arm is still pressed against their head. From there, move around. Leverton suggested this as a good option for when the person turtling is mainly trying to stay tight, rather than making any aggressive actions like a wrestler would. It therefore sounds like it could be a good option in the context of BJJ.

The standard way of maintaining control on top of turtle, or at least the option I’m familiar with, is sprawling out the legs connecting your hips. This is a bit like what Leverton called the ‘side ride’, which he noted was good for strikes (he should know, given he has a long history of training successful MMA fighters). Leverton prefers a different position, where he uses his forearms to create initial hooks before replacing them with his legs. Crouched directly behind them, brace your forearms into their hips (but not your elbows, or they can try to control them) and squeeze your knees into them.

This is just a transitional position, so don’t stay there long. You aren’t sprawled back from here because that is space they can move into. From here, twist around to one side. On one side, your forearm stays in as a hook on their hip. Leave a leg behind on that side too, still tight to their body. Your remaining arm reaches for their arm on the other side, joined by your other knee.

If there is space, you can just replace your forearm with your leg to insert your hooks. Note that for the second hook, you will have to turn your body before you can insert it, or you’ll find the motion awkward. Most likely they won’t let you do that and will stay tight. In that situation, Leverton suggested trying a tilt to back mount, with two options. At this point there was a degree of jiu jitsu influence again, as Leverton described these techniques as the ‘Maia’ and ‘Marcelo’ back takes respectively.

For the Maia, you’re shifting diagonally into their bottom corner. Move your body backwards slightly, diagonally behind you and away from them on the arm-gripping side. Leave a small space, then pull them into that space. That will roll them over the knee you had on the arm-gripping side, ideally straight into back mount. You’ll also want to establish a harness/seat-belt grip, with an arm over the shoulder and the other under the armpit.

By contrast, the Marcelo shifts forwards into their top corner. This is more difficult, as it feels like there are more parts to the motion. Start by jamming the knee on their arm-gripping side into the gap between their thigh and their arm (if they are tight there won’t be much space, but digging your knee in should open it up). Sliding over their shoulder, drop onto your own shoulder, pushing off your leg to roll them onto you. A common mistake is to just leap over and hope your body weight will be enough to roll them, which almost certainly won’t be the case: you need to be pushing off the mat with your leg. During that roll, pinch your knees around their leg to stop them walking through and escaping.

Next, swing the leg you have underneath around their leg to get your hook. You then want to bring your second hook in, which they may block. If they do, you still have one hook, which allows you to use Marcelo Garcia’s ‘hip extension’. Lock your feet together, then pull them towards you with your seat-belt grip and thrust your hips into their back. That should stretch them out, giving you the space to secure your second hook.
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After a short break, Leverton moved on to bottom turtle, which again was roughly two hours. I was initially nervous when I saw this was due to feature takedowns, as that was liable to exacerbate my groin injury, but fortunately the takedowns were from turtle and staying low, rather than a big lift and drop. The overarching theme for this section was making your turtle dangerous, rather than a purely defensive position.

The other major point was scooting backwards while in turtle. Bring one arm back at a time, to reduce your vulnerability. By moving backwards, this helps to extend your opponent and open up opportunities for attacking and escaping. That does mean you may mash your knees up drilling, as you’re sliding them back and forth on the mats (especially if you are just wearing shorts so the skin is exposed), but meh. Hopefully my awesome Pony Club Grappling Gear spats will arrive at some point: the Yang seems to have gotten stuck in transit from Australia a couple of months ago (possibly customs? Or just Royal Mail being rubbish, as they are frequently crap with getting stuff to the office).

Keep your knees wide for base, elbows inside, then defending your neck with your hands (either Aisling’s ‘Shirley Temple’ defence, or crossing your hands). You need to keep the person in front of you so that moving back becomes particularly effective. Leverton ran us through a quick drill, where the person on top just put their hands on your upper back while you were in turtle, the person on the bottom adjusting to stay facing them.

From here you can attack with a single leg, wrapping their leg and keeping your head on the inside, elbows tight, trying to bring their knee into your chest. This can be set up by backing away: even if they’re sprawled, they are going to have to come forward to stay on top. To finish the takedown, keep your inside hand locked behind their knee, grabbing their ankle with the other. Pull that out, then move around, put the leg between your knees and bump them with your shoulder.

This combines well with the double leg. Should you get the opportunity, grab both legs, bring your head outside, drive with your outside leg and move on top. In many ways this was similar to how I’ve been taught to complete the side control escape to your knees. A detail I wasn’t doing (or at least haven’t emphasised) is sliding your other knee in. Like Roy Dean’s takedown, Leverton pivots to the side rather than staying straight on, but wrapping both legs rather than using a knee block.

I’ve familiar with the peek out, which I know as a wrestler’s sit-out. Although when I say ‘familiar’, it isn’t something I use a lot because I’m lazy and don’t like to move very much. The situation is that they have made the mistake of wrapping arms by your hips. Base on an elbow and the opposite foot, then knock back their same side arm with your non-basing elbow.

Bring your non-basing foot through right across to the opposite corner, getting your head up, then spin behind them. Your inside hand stays by the leg in case they try to run behind. Also make sure you are putting your weight onto them when you bring your head through. If your weight is sat on the floor, the person on top can simply put their head on the floor, bring their leg over and mount.

I prefer the arm roll, which I think I first learned during my very brief stint of judo way back, as a set up for waki-gatame. Of course, a good grappler isn’t going to give you their arm like that, but it is still worth knowing. Same position, but this time you reach back and lock their arm. Look in the direction of the wrapped arm, then drop your same side shoulder to the mat and roll them onto their back. Turn towards their legs to come on top (if you turn towards their head, they can take your back).

The sit back to guard is another basic option I’m used to, but it turns out that I have been doing this wrong. This is not the same as trying to pull guard off a takedown attempt. As Leverton noted, jiu jitsu guys can get away with that as their opponents don’t normally know how to hold the top turtle position properly or perform a decent double or single leg, at least by comparison to a wrestler. Instead of pulling guard, you are sliding over your leg. Do not kick out your leg: just rock back into guard. Leverton came over several times to correct my positioning, so clearly I have some bad jiu jitsu habits to iron out.

Once I do, this could be very useful for escapes I use all the time, especially the running escape. Which is cool, as I’ve been struggling to finish that escape properly (as opposed to just stalling with the running escape) for ages. I’m looking forward to seeing if I can incorporate Leverton’s details, along with the scoot back Geraldine did the last time I taught the running escape. Although as you can see from the picture, the scenario is somewhat different, so perhaps it isn’t entirely relevant.

To perform a front headlock escape, there were two versions, early and late. If you can control that arm before they secure it around your neck (this therefore also applies to guillotines and the like when you’re in turtle). Grab their wrist and push it down to the floor, then run your head up the outside of their arm until your reach their shoulder.

If you’re late and they’ve managed to get a bit deeper, the focus will still be on that arm. Reach for the elbow of the arm they have by the neck and try to pull it down into your chest. Use the kind of motion as if you were climbing a rope, hand over hand. After you’ve secure it towards your chest, switch your knees and step around, reaching an arm around their back. This ends up looking a bit like an arm drag.

Leverton took the opportunity here to make some comments about what he called ‘sport jiu jitsu’. I know what he means, but it’s a term I dislike: I associate it with the marketing campaign to separate ‘self defence’ and ‘sport’ BJJ into two distinct styles, which I think is a false dichotomy: that came up again recently here and I also babble about it extensively here.

He basically said that currently in elite BJJ competition, you will see double-guard pulls where top jiu jitsu competitors fight to grab each other’s feet. That looks ridiculous even to an educated viewer. Leverton far prefers to get on top, smash with wrestling and look to submit. Given I’m assuming I was one of the few jiu jitsu people in the room, I kinda feel I have to respond. ;p

Not that I disagree with any of that: I don’t like the manner in which some competitors currently aim to play footsie either. I also have absolutely no interest in 50/50 and similarly over-complicated guards, aside from countering them with as simple a pass as possible. The main point I want to make – and I’m sure Leverton is fully aware of this – is that there are lots of people within jiu jitsu saying the same thing. For example, Xande Ribeiro, amongst the greatest competitors of all time and still active in major tournaments today. Speaking to Inside BJJ, Xande stated in #58:

Double guard pull? This is insane. You watch a match, and seven minutes is in the same position. […] You see fights, black belt fights, seven minutes in a position that is not an end, you know? There’s a beginning, there’s a middle, but no finish.

I even hear people say, “Well, what if you mount the guy for three minutes…” Yeah buddy, I’m mounted on you. That’s totally different. I am in a dominant position. But when you are in a position where the only thing that you can do is a toe hold, get an advantage, or maybe an armbar that some people do from there, that’s it. What else is in there? I didn’t go to a tournament to have someone fight for their life to wrap their legs around my leg and stay there for eight minutes.

I tell people, grab my fricking arm and pull my arm for ten minutes! Pull my neck for ten minutes! Do not pull my leg and wrap around it tight. That’s not the jiu jitsu I teach for my students. Double guard pull? What is this double guard pull? All of a sudden jiu jitsu is two guys fighting for the bottom? I don’t really appreciate it, it’s ugly, it’s bad.

People should be a little more proud and think “I’m a bad ass passer. I’m going to pass your legs, go around to your side, hold on to you and you’re going to suffer.” I think that should be more the mentality, not just a sweeping art. “Ok, I sweep you, then I stall and I get two advantages, then I sit my butt on the floor again.”

I wasn’t raised like that. I’m from a time when you could slam in jiu jitsu, you could reap the knee. People fought for the finish, points were just consequences of your work.

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Back mount lasted around an hour, brought over from another seminar in the series that was overly long. Starting with the top, lower body control discussed hooking your feet inside. Bring your knees up higher to shorten the length of your legs, as this will provide less space for their escape. Tense the hamstring if they roll, following them over remaining stuck to their back.

Upper body control looked at the seat-belt grip, also known as the harness, which is the basic over the shoulder and under the armpit grip. Leverton prefers to cover his choking hand with his armpit hand: as I’ve discussed in the past, there are various opinions on the best option. Some instructors teach that covering with the armpit hand means you can go straight to the choke if they try to knock it off. Others prefer having the choking hand on top, so that you already have that immediate route to the neck.

The body triangle depends a lot on both your body type and that of your partner. In my case, I’m quite flexible, but there was no way I was locking my short legs around my partner, who was a fair bit bigger than me (even with Leverton’s handy tip about opening your hips by turning your toes downwards).

Next up was a few tips I recognised from Marcelo Garcia, as these are both techniques I’ve taught in the past and had success with in rolling, based off Marcelo Garcia’s material. Marshal Carper, who was among the co-authors for Garcia’s book, produced a handy video detailing the techniques in combination. First there is moving them from side to side with your legs, particularly if you have them on the choking side and they try to roll away, then secondly there is the ‘hip extension’ method for opening up space to insert your second hook (covered more briefly earlier in the seminar).

Leverton also examined the standard transition to full mount if you’re losing the back, which looked familiar to how I’ve seen it taught elsewhere (lock your heel to their far hip and swivel around), althrough I don’t normally grab the arm. That’s a useful detail to keep in mind.

Leverton then moved into two submissions (incidentally, it was cool that Leverton focused on controlling position rather than loads of submissions, in contrast to numerous other seminars). I have taught the rear naked choke a number of times, but was looking forward to Leverton’s version, hoping to learn some useful tweaks. Leverton did not disappoint, providing simple details that could make a huge difference. The most important distinction is the way he places his locking arm, so that it becomes more involved in the choke.

It is entirely possible most other instructors do this, but it is not something that I can remember being emphasised. Set-up the choke in the usual way, bringing your choking arm around their neck with your elbow under their chin and your body tight. The second arm locks up with the elbow in front of their shoulder, not behind. Both of your armpits are therefore resting on their shoulders.

That minor shift in position makes it a lot tighter, along with the considerable advantage of hiding both your wrists (which they now can’t grab). Leverton noted that while there are lots of ways of finishing off the choke, such as expanding your chest (which I like to do), you have your arms around their neck so squeeze those before anything else.

Leverton’s variation reminded me of the palm to palm lock Kesting does to walk his arm into position. It is also something I’ve seen on Demian Maia’s DVD, where you are essentially choking them with one arm. This is useful if for some reason you can’t get that second arm into place, though it is naturally not as strong a choke as when you can get both arms locked in for a true RNC.

If they tuck their chin, you can bring your arm over the head for a nasty Neil Adams style armbar from the back, which involves a vicious grip that is almost a bicep slicer. If for some reason you haven’t heard of Neil Adams, he has two Olympic silver medals in judo and is very, very good at armbarring people. When Adams tells you how to do an armbar, you should listen extremely closely. 😉

Grab their wrist, then reach your other arm over. Grab their wrist with that other hand, whereupon you can switch your first grip to your own wrist, securing a figure four grip. Drop to your shoulder, swinging around: as you do, bring your leg across their hips, swinging the other leg out. This spin should be the same kind of motion as when you spin for an armbar from guard (I’ve always sucked at armbars from guard, so wasn’t very fluid at this).

Hook the swinging leg over their head, so the back of your calf is pressing into their face/temple rather than their neck (for the same reason as a Thai clinch, because holding higher on the head is harder for them to resist than gripping by their neck.) Move your arm deeper, so that instead of grabbing your wrist, you’re now grabbing nearer your elbow. Curl your wrists up and you can also turn the hand nearer you elbow upwards.

Straighten your leg into their head as you apply pressure with your arms. Speaking from experience, this feels horrible. I would be tapping long before the actual armbar. If your opponent is tougher than me (which is highly likely), use that hold to unlock their hands (which they will normally clamp together to defend the armbar), then drop back for the submission.

You can briefly see Neil Adams himself use the grip in this video, which is from another seminar at Leicester Shootfighters:

Leverton’s demonstration of back mount escapes was quick by comparison to the rest of the seminar, beginning with some basic survival details, such as hand placement on the neck. Again, you can use the ‘Shirley Temple/Home Alone’ or the hands crossed over the neck. Elbow inside, knees up, keeping your abs tight. You can then move into the escape, which was a fairly standard drop to the side and shrimp.

It was essentially the same version Xande demonstrates on his DVD set. Leverton calls it the ‘scrape escape‘. Drop to your side, bringing your knee in, then lift and pop their knee off with your hip, just like Xande. Shrimp out pushing on their leg, ready to move into guard should they try to move on top, as people normally will attempt. If they’ve got a choke in the early stages, it is especially important to get your head and shoulders to the mat to reduce their efficacy.

You can also turn to your knees, using the same motion as if you’re escaping from under side control to your knees. This is useful for when they’ve locked their legs in a sort of ‘side-on back mount’, making it hard to complete the usual escape. If you can drop your elbow, then there is a chance you can thread one leg under the other, turning on the spot to come up in their guard. Leverton also mentioned escaping the body triangle using a similar motion to the scrap escape (personally I just step over their foot and bridge into their locked feet, as he demonstrated, but it as he said it’s good to keep practicing that scrape escape motion).

I realised at the end that I had been drilling with Jake from Fighting at Forty blog, which is a good site I’ve been reading recently. I love meeting fellow bloggers whose work I enjoy, which was therefore a cool way to end the seminar. I’m looking forward to making more of them, which will also mean I can get in some more CouchSurfing fun. All in all, great weekend, particularly as when I got home, I saw that the GrappleThon has now raised over £4000 for Rape Crisis! 😀


24/11/2012 – Raptor BJJ

Class #475
Raptor BJJ, (BJJ), Jeff Rockwell, Austin, TX, USA – 24/11/2012

Jeff Rockwell is a name that should be familiar to you if you spend much time on the numerous BJJ internet message boards. I think I first heard about him in connection to Aesopian, as one of a group of instructors sharing and discussing technique with each other online. I did not realise he lived in Austin until I saw Marshal Carper’s post about training with Rockwell. The approach described there sounded right up my street, so I was keen to check out Jeff’s school during my Texas trip (full write-up here). As he is an awesome guy, he immediately offered me a lift to the club when I contacted him over on the Grapplers Guide.

Training at Raptor Jiu Jitsu resulted in yet another example of the incredible sense of community that BJJ can build. I arrived into Austin on Tuesday, meeting up with the fabulous blogger Georgette, then trained at Sean Cooper’s gym with her husband Mitch a few hours later. While there I met a gentleman called Mikal, who later invited me to his home for dinner, provided by the wonderful cooking of his fiancee Marlena (she was also willing to drive me round Austin, because she’s super cool).

Also present were Jesse and Susie, who I’d first met on Saturday training at Jeff Rockwell’s school (they work for the Enlightened Warriors, a charity that reminded me of Future Champions in the UK). Five people who had never met before that week, sat in a room getting to know each other, sharing food and drink, brought together by jiu jitsu. BJJ is awesome, for so much more than just the physical training side of things.
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After the warm-up, Jeff moved into some useful drills for recovering guard out of turtle. They are on one side of you, pressing their knee in looking to establish their hooks. Grab the far leg with your inside/near arm. Your near knee then goes up onto their hip. Base out on your free arm, using that to slide your other leg in and go to guard.

The next one is from a similar position, except they have a grip over your back. Protect your neck with your far arm, reaching to your near side collar. With your near arm, grab inside their near knee, bringing your elbow to the outside of their hip. Base out with your free arm, then walk up on your toes. Come up until you can support yourself on your head and shoulder, meaning you can roll through like Dónal’s comparable drill.

They will probably have their head clamped by your hip (if they are using the blocking method John talked about), so you want to push that with your free hand (which was the basing hand originally). With the other hand, you should still be holding their knee: as you roll through to recover guard, this arm straightens out, but continues to push into their knee.

When you recover your guard, they are probably going to move straight into the double-underhook pass. Try to avoid them getting their hands locked, as that will make it tough to defend. The natural impulse is for them to reach their hand across to grab your collar and start stacking (when drilling, it is helpful if your partner indicates which hand by opening it wide and moving it slowly towards the collar). Once you see that hand moving, grab their wrist and elbow.

It is possible you may need to hook underneath the elbow if they are tight and pry it free. Either way, bring their arm across your thighs and shove their wrist into your hip. Keep pushing on their elbow, then move your wrist hand to base behind you as you sit up. Continuing to brace against their elbow, you should now be able to make enough space that you can recover guard.

Next up was a favourite technique of mine, the running escape, which Jeff does a bit differently. Unlike when I have taught it, Jeff uses this against the orthodox side control grips. Block their cross face with one hand, the other gripping around their shoulder blade (that should mean you can wedge your forearm under their neck). Bridge and turn away from them slightly, but only enough that your shoulder can get onto their chest. Make certain you defend your neck in order to protect against chokes.

That then progresses to something similar to the Braulio escape. Do a big step with your bottom leg, spin over, your other arm sliding underneath your body and to your side to block any potential hook they might look to insert to take the back. As you go to your knees, that arm comes up like in Braulio’s version. However, unlike Braulio, you are looking to use it to grab around their back and then recover guard, rather than necessarily as a prevention to them taking your back (though it can work in that situation too).

Sparring with Jeff I was working a lot of guard retention again, avoiding the holes he was leaving for me to fall into. Similarly with the other people I sparred with it was mostly about maintaining my guard, working the spider guard to an extent. I’m still not quite sure what is best for my injured leg, but I at least didn’t seem to aggravate it during sparring at that school. Like John, Jeff is another senior belt who is good at adjusting his rolling to the level of his partner. I’ve been very fortunate to train with several black belts on this trip.

I later sparred with a purple belt called Jessica, who has excellent guard retention. Rolling with Jesse was cool too. Jeff has a great bunch of students and an accessible, detailed teaching style. It was an absolute pleasure training with Jeff, as well as chatting to him about his background on the drive over. I can definitely recommend Raptor BJJ to anyone in the area: he also teaches a class at the University of Texas. So, go check it out! 😀


25/03/2011 – RGA Aylesbury (Beginner)

Class #383
RGA Aylesbury, (BJJ), Kev Capel, Aylesbury, UK – 25/03/2011

For anyone outside the UK, good news: Jiu Jitsu Style magazine is now available digitally, via the iTunes store. Full details here. The website also has a great new feature, a club news page. If you want to let the world know about any cool events at your club (gradings, seminars, competition success etc), simply write it up and submit it to the JJS team here.

Elsewhere on the web, one of my favourite bloggers, Jim, is revamping his site: take a look here. Not only an excellent blog name, but high quality writing too. Finally, don’t forget that the Pan Ams are streaming tomorrow: the finals on Sunday will cost you $10 (tickets here), but Saturday is free.

I want to try and get back into a regular training pattern, as I think my leg has been sufficiently rested that I can start training two nights a week again. I’m still taking it easy on that knee, so during the warm-up, I’m still doing sit-ups, dorsal raises, press-ups etc instead of the usual jumping jacks and squats. Technique is still based around the turtle position, like last Sunday, starting with guard recovery from turtle.

They are facing your turtle, looking to move around the side to take your back. To stop that, put an arm up by the outside of their leg. On that same side, step up your leg. Your head pops out the other side, and you’ll also base out with your hand on that side.

That will enable you to slide your same side leg forward, establishing a butterfly hook. Bring your first foot in to get your other butterfly hook. If they don’t react, you can knock them forward and look to take their back. If not, then you can move into a secure butterfly guard position, staying close.

Next up was a more complex technique, which previously I wouldn’t have recognised. However, as I had recently seen it on the Roy Harris DVD and been told what it was by Aesopian, I knew I was looking at a reverse omoplata. You start by their side, while they’re tightly turtled up. Put your outside foot by their head: this is bait, as you want them to hook it with their arm.

If they fall into your trap, immediately bring your leg backward. This will slide their arm over your other leg. Use the foot of that other leg to hook their arm, helping to hold it in place by pushing on their elbow with your hand. Having trapped the arm, do a shoulder roll, over the shoulder you have nearest their head (just as if you were breakfalling).

As you roll, triangle your legs to trap their arm. If they don’t react, you’ll kimura their arm: you’ll also need to be careful, as this will put lots of pressure on their shoulder (as your whole bodyweight is going against their joint). This is the submission Harris demonstrates in the screen cap from DVD.

However, they will probably roll to relieve the pressure. Follow them, putting your arm across their body to keep their torso in place, with the elbow into their far armpit. You’re facing their legs, so it is sort of like reverse scarf hold. You also still have their arm stuck between your legs.

At this point, you have two options: keep your legs triangled, or move one of your legs back, pressing on their arm with your hand to clamp it to your bent leg. Whichever control you use, the next step is to shift your hips backwards (so that will use either your free leg, or your free arm). As you move backwards, you’ll be gradually applying the submission.

It may be enough to just keep moving back: that proved to be the case during drilling. If that isn’t sufficient, then bring your hips up to twist their arm and torque their shoulder. Remember to keep your body, as you still want to maintain control of their upper body. That also stops them from sitting up to ease the strain on their shoulder.

I didn’t do the specific sparring, as I thought there was a good chance of tweaking my knee if I was going from or against the turtle. Fortunately I was able to get in some rolling during the hour of free rolling afterwards, beginning with the same white belt who worked on half guard with me last Sunday. I adopted the same tactic as in Bristol, going for Xande’s open guard.

I need to work on swivelling and spinning more fluidly, pushing off their bicep with my foot: didn’t quite get it right, but then I was somewhat hampered by only have the one leg to use. Eventually settled into my usual survival position of the running escape posture, which is especially handy when I don’t want to use my other leg (although I had to be careful which knee I was using as the main mobile barrier to their arms).

Later, Kev had a roll with me, so I could cut loose slightly more: he’s an experienced brown belt and instructor, meaning I could trust his level of control. Of course, he was going fairly light, and avoiding my injured leg. That meant I was playing a similar game as with the white belt. As Kev is a lot higher level, I was finding myself trying to stop him taking my back or rolling into submissions, rather than just settling into my running escape posture.

Though both my sparring partners were going easy on me, it still felt good to get back into the movements of BJJ against resistance, testing my defences. I’m hopeful that I’ll be at 100% soon: drilling technique has so far been a relatively good way of testing how much my knee can take.


25/03/2011 – RGA Aylesbury (Beginner)

Class #382
RGA Aylesbury, (BJJ), Kev Capel, Aylesbury, UK – 25/03/2011

For anyone outside the UK, good news: Jiu Jitsu Style magazine is now available digitally, via the iTunes store. Full details here. The website also has a great new feature, a club news page. If you want to let the world know about any cool events at your club (gradings, seminars, competition success etc), simply write it up and submit it to the JJS team here.

Elsewhere on the web, one of my favourite bloggers, Jim, is revamping his site: take a look here. Not only an excellent blog name, but high quality writing too. Finally, don’t forget that the Pan Ams are streaming tomorrow: the finals on Sunday will cost you $10 (tickets here), but Saturday is free.

I want to try and get back into a regular training pattern, as I think my leg has been sufficiently rested that I can start training two nights a week again. I’m still taking it easy on that knee, so during the warm-up, I’m still doing sit-ups, dorsal raises, press-ups etc instead of the usual jumping jacks and squats. Technique is still based around the turtle position, like last Sunday, starting with guard recovery from turtle.

They are facing your turtle, looking to move around the side to take your back. To stop that, put an arm up by the outside of their leg. On that same side, step up your leg. Your head pops out the other side, and you’ll also base out with your hand on that side.

That will enable you to slide your same side leg forward, establishing a butterfly hook. Bring your first foot in to get your other butterfly hook. If they don’t react, you can knock them forward and look to take their back. If not, then you can move into a secure butterfly guard position, staying close.

Next up was a more complex technique, which previously I wouldn’t have recognised. However, as I had recently seen it on the Roy Harris DVD and been told what it was by Aesopian, I knew I was looking at a reverse omoplata. You start by their side, while they’re tightly turtled up. Put your outside foot by their head: this is bait, as you want them to hook it with their arm.

If they fall into your trap, immediately bring your leg backward. This will slide their arm over your other leg. Use the foot of that other leg to hook their arm, helping to hold it in place by pushing on their elbow with your hand. Having trapped the arm, do a shoulder roll, over the shoulder you have nearest their head (just as if you were breakfalling).

As you roll, triangle your legs to trap their arm. If they don’t react, you’ll kimura their arm: you’ll also need to be careful, as this will put lots of pressure on their shoulder (as your whole bodyweight is going against their joint). This is the submission Harris demonstrates in the screen cap from DVD.

However, they will probably roll to relieve the pressure. Follow them, putting your arm across their body to keep their torso in place, with the elbow into their far armpit. You’re facing their legs, so it is sort of like reverse scarf hold. You also still have their arm stuck between your legs.

At this point, you have two options: keep your legs triangled, or move one of your legs back, pressing on their arm with your hand to clamp it to your bent leg. Whichever control you use, the next step is to shift your hips backwards (so that will use either your free leg, or your free arm). As you move backwards, you’ll be gradually applying the submission.

It may be enough to just keep moving back: that proved to be the case during drilling. If that isn’t sufficient, then bring your hips up to twist their arm and torque their shoulder. Remember to keep your body, as you still want to maintain control of their upper body. That also stops them from sitting up to ease the strain on their shoulder.

I didn’t do the specific sparring, as I thought there was a good chance of tweaking my knee if I was going from or against the turtle. Fortunately I was able to get in some rolling during the hour of free rolling afterwards, beginning with the same white belt who worked on half guard with me last Sunday. I adopted the same tactic as in Bristol, going for Xande’s open guard.

I need to work on swivelling and spinning more fluidly, pushing off their bicep with my foot: didn’t quite get it right, but then I was somewhat hampered by only have the one leg to use. Eventually settled into my usual survival position of the running escape posture, which is especially handy when I don’t want to use my other leg (although I had to be careful which knee I was using as the main mobile barrier to their arms).

Later, Kev had a roll with me, so I could cut loose slightly more: he’s an experienced brown belt and instructor, meaning I could trust his level of control. Of course, he was going fairly light, and avoiding my injured leg. That meant I was playing a similar game as with the white belt. As Kev is a lot higher level, I was finding myself trying to stop him taking my back or rolling into submissions, rather than just settling into my running escape posture.

Though both my sparring partners were going easy on me, it still felt good to get back into the movements of BJJ against resistance, testing my defences. I’m hopeful that I’ll be at 100% soon: drilling technique has so far been a relatively good way of testing how much my knee can take.


19/11/2009 – BJJ

Class #262

RGA High Wycombe, (BJJ), Kev Capel, High Wycombe, UK – 19/11/2009

I haven’t been to a Thursday session in a couple of weeks, and I’d forgotten that sometimes there aren’t many blue belts present. Tonight, as has happened before, I was the only non-white belt student there, which was unfortunate. On the other hand, that had the fantastic side-effect of getting Kev as my training partner, which was awesome. Like I said in my article a little while ago, nothing beats having your instructor as a training partner: sort of like a private lesson within a group lesson. 😀

Kev’s turtle theme continued, with the same drill on maintaining chest to back contact starting off the lesson. That was followed by one of the defences I used on Tuesday, trapping the arm and escaping from the turtle. It’s very simple: if they reach too far with their arm while you’re in turtle, wrap your arm behind the elbow, also securing their wrist or sleeve with your other hand. You then roll in the direction of their trapped arm, flipping them over your back, meaning you end up on top in side control.

To aid that roll, you can kick your leg nearest to them backwards, dropping that side towards the floor. As they are effectively using you for base, that knock their balance, making it easier to bring them over you. For further assistance, you can also use your other arm to shove them as they go over. Essentially, you’re spinning on the spot, rather than a big roll to the side.

Also, make sure that when you move to side control, turn towards their legs, not their head. If you turn towards their head, you’ll roll yourself right off their body, and they might even have a chance to take your back. So instead, keep your weight pressed into them, then turn towards their legs.

Kev’s choice of counterpoint tonight was a clock choke, using a version he learned from Felipe Souza. Reach under their same side armpit with your far arm and open up their same side collar. Feed that to your other hand, after you’ve reached over their near shoulder to get it into position. With your far side arm, grab their collar, meaning that you have the same kind of grip as a lapel choke.

Keeping your weight down, switch your hips and walk towards their head, in a repeating process of bringing one leg under, then the over leg over (hence the name ‘clock choke’, where you act as one of the hands on the clock face). If they somehow manage to roll you over, because you have that lapel choke grip, you may still be able to finish the submission.

In specific sparring, I unsurprisingly didn’t have a great deal of success against Kev, but I did get plenty of success. On top, I need to try attacking more, rather than just switching position. I also need to be careful of getting my knee anywhere near the middle of his legs (as that results in a kneebar opportunity), and it is also dangerous to have them facing your legs. That’s because they are then better able to go for a double leg, or various other escapes Kev used on me (like the one where you get your head between their legs and flip them up and off into side control).

Underneath, I felt more comfortable, but again got repeatedly rolled and my back taken. However, I was at least doing the right thing. I asked Kev if I should be trying to turn to face his legs, and he agreed that was a sensible defensive strategy. Firstly it means they can’t insert their hooks, and secondly (as above) you can attack with double legs, as well as having a greater chance to roll back into guard.

Naturally this worked a lot better when I was with the white belts, as they leave much more space than brown belts like Kev. So, I was able to roll back into guard a few times, but a little sloppy on several occasions. With someone more experience, I think they probably would have been able to get into side control before I could re-establish closed guard.

I decided to stick around for the hour of sparring tonight, as I wasn’t able to make the advanced class on Tuesday. Kev began with a brief bit of guard passage, where one of the white belts kept trying to go into rubber guard. Posturing up seemed to neutralise that threat, but again, with someone more experienced (especially with the rubber guard), I’d run into problems, as I’m not used to facing it.

I also sparred that same white belt a bit later in free sparring, and was able to control him in his guard, and also passed to half guard and then mount a couple of times. Using shoulder pressure definitely helped, as long as I made sure to stop any underhooks. However, I did have the rare advantage of size, which definitely made a difference: with somebody bigger, I’d have a much tougher time pressing them back down when they tried to sit up in guard.

I wanted to give the advice from David Onuma’s great instructional video a try, as it looked like a handy grip from the guard. I didn’t get very far though, as I didn’t do a good enough job of breaking down my partner’s posture when in my guard. Still, it did at least inspire me to try an armbar, which I hardly ever attempt: definitely something I need to go for more often, as it is such an important submission from the guard.

Kev added in a bit of grip fighting, then I had another chance to spar the instructor, which is always great. That mostly stayed in his guard, while I attempted to maintain good posture and not get swept. As ever, I have to try standing up more often, rather than relying on the safety of my knees.

Last spar was with Trev, whose long, flexible legs are always dangerous. I was just about able to fend him off, trying to keep my knees near my chest when he moved into my open guard. When he did eventually pass into half guard, I managed to get an underhook on the same side as the trapped leg, but couldn’t quite manage to get up onto my side (I tried bumping him forward with the underhook, but without much luck).

I also narrowly avoided getting triangled once he got to mount: only my knee and framing arms stopped him, as when he tried to roll into a triangle from guard, I was in position to break free. However, in mount, it was just that wedged in knee, so no real technique on my part. Had the spar gone on longer, I’m sure he would have eventually landed that triangle.


12/11/2008 – BJJ (Advanced)

Class #193

Roger Gracie Academy (BJJ), Roger Gracie, London, UK – 12/11/2008Advanced

Tonight’s class was again focused on escaping from when somebody is trying to take your back, but is still in front of you, pressing their chest down on your back. We covered two situations for escaping, first when they have their arms around your chest, the second when they’re in a more cautious position with one over your shoulder, the other inside.

When you turtle up and your opponent wants to move to your back, the first thing they have to be careful of is that you don’t wrap up on of their legs and drive through to side control. That means they’ll sprawl back, to stop you getting a hold. Roger noted that if they go overboard with this and bring their legs too far away, you’ll have space to simply return to guard. If they stay tighter, then they’ll also normally try and secure some kind of grip on your torso.

If they circle your chest with both arms, that is a mistake on their part, according to Roger. To escape, first grab one of their arms with your opposite arm. You can now turn to that side, and they will not be able to post out because you’ve got their limb trapped. So, swivel over your shoulder moving your head up as you do so (I think), which should force them onto their back.

This means you now have your back on their chest. Walk your feet round towards their legs, then bring your free hand to the other side of their body, turning towards their hips and moving into side control. Don’t turn towards their head, as this will potentially give them an opportunity to get to their knees.

The next escape is something I’ve seen called the wrestler’s sit-out, presumably because it’s a common move in wrestling. This time, they don’t circle your chest with both arms, being aware of the previous escape. Instead, they grip over your shoulder and then inside (I think: looked like the usual grip, though). To sit-out, first make some space by bringing your elbow up, aiming to clear their arm out of the way. Then bring your far leg through (so cross it in front of the other), ‘sitting out’ as far as you can. To help that motion, you should also raise your head, moving it backwards.

Continuing your momentum, immediately then swing your leg round and take their back. This is the part both I and Anne found more difficult: I kept finding that I was either going to my knees rather than doing it all in one, or not managing it all (when I tried to sit-out on my weak side). I think I’ve got the fundamental motion down ok one side to escape, so I just need to work on making that transition to the back properly.

We then sparred from that same position. Underneath, I sort of managed a sloppy wrestler’s sit out, and also tried swivelling to my back at one point. Judo came in handy too, with that escape where you wrap their elbow and roll (which I realise was one of several techniques I’d forgotten to add to my last judo post, as we covered so much on Sunday). Only unfortunate part was that I had to cut it short, as due to limited space, almost crashed into somebody else nearby.

On top, I couldn’t do much, except for a judo turnover at one point (grabbing an elbow with both hands and driving forward), but Anne mentioned she didn’t think we were supposed to be doing that, so might have been a mistake on my part. I also had a vague go at the clock choke, but that just ended up being a loose grip on her collar without going anywhere, after which she escaped anyway.

My first free spar was also with Anne, where I spent much of it in guard, although partly that was because we had to keep on moving. Class was really busy tonight, so there were lots of flailing bodies to avoid. Later on, when we’d finally managed to find a bit of space, I was able to pass to half guard, then switched to mount. I wasn’t able to hold it very well, but did manage to keep Anne on her side when she turned to escape.

I’d been thinking about that choke Nick showed us a while ago, so had been maintaining a grip on Anne’s collar, but had earlier been stuck in half-guard. As she shifted to her side and I got my leg free, I saw my chance and moved into position. I got a knee by her head and up by her back, but didn’t think I had a tight enough hold on Anne’s collar: I also hadn’t secured the fabric by her hip. I did get the tap, but it felt sloppy on my part, so I need to make sure I have all the grips in place next time.

That was followed by the usual roll with Tran, where I spent my time under half-guard and side control. I was able to ward off Tran’s attempts to bring his leg over and go for a choke (he does that fairly often, so I was watching for it), but had more trouble when he almost got me in some kind of neck cranky thing. I wasn’t sure how to get out, but as I could feel that I had enough room to get my legs up, I wrapped those around his head and pushed him away, which was enough to release his hold. Again, sloppy: it worked, but I’m sure there must be a better way of escaping.

Finished off by briefly sparring a purple belt named Lex, who’s carrying a shoulder injury. This time, I spent the whole roll under half-guard considering how to avoid the choke that it looked like Lex might be trying, as he had a grip behind my head and on the collar. He was going easy, as he’s a fair bit bigger, but I still wasn’t sure what exactly to do in order to avoid getting stuck. Didn’t really have time to find out, as firstly we kept bumping into the radiator, and secondly we’d started part-way through the round, so the beeper went off before anything developed.

My toe was ok tonight, though its still sore when I walk. Will have to keep being careful, as I could see it getting messed up if anyone yanked on it (e.g., I’ve noticed people sometimes grab and pull on the foot when I’m in half-guard, if they can reach it). Should be fine though, judging by tonight.